If You Want To Abuse Black Women And Children With Impunity, Become An Entertainer
If you want to abuse Black women and children with impunity, become an entertainer, the career that’s more precious than Black educators, Black physicians and Black scientists combined. Don’t believe me? When’s the last ntime you saw supporters rally to defend a Black teacher accused of sexually assaulting a student based on how well they taught Algebra 2? Something about making products exclusively for Black amusement makes you invaluable to the community. Just ask R. Kelly.
Now, I’m not sure how anyone could separate the man from the music when the music is an extension of the man, but I suppose it doesn’t hurt to try. Especially when the family reunion playlist is on the line. But this article isn’t about R. Kelly in particular. If you support R. Kelly today there’s likely nothing he could do to change your mind. And he’s certainly not the only Black entertainer who’s received a pass. In fact, there are very few entertainers who haven’t. We have a tendency to sacrifice our most vulnerable to feed the creativity of our talented. This isn’t a new phenomenon specific only to our generation, nor is it specific to the Black American community. This is a global Black issue some deem too minor to address, after all we can’t focus too much on figures like R. Kelly because, well, racism… Donald Trump… The East Coast-West Coast Beef. But sarcasm aside, the real question remains: At what point does the well-being of our community outweigh our need to be entertained?
Black entertainers are hope surrogates. We live out our dreams of escaping the mundane realities of our lives by following their lavish existences. And at the root of all of these farcical hopes and dreams is our desired proximity to whiteness. The goal is now and has always been to escape the hood, find a friendly gated community with suspicious white neighbors and enjoy everything that suburban life has to offer. We’re not trying to “make it” to get closer to each other; the term “make it” specifically refers to a new-age Black migration of sorts. A calculated escape plan to live less of a Black reality. It’s for this very reason that some of our favorite entertainers are Black ministers. Charismatic hope pushers who pump us full of optimism, endorphins and quotables.
We have slavery to thank for the fortification Black ministers so undeservingly enjoy. Contrary to popular belief, not every slave master was eager to introduce his slaves to the word of God. Some feared that doing so would give their slaves the delusion of equality. But those who did, did so strategically, choosing charismatic slaves with influence, equipping them with pre-selected, closely monitored sermons and propping them up in front of their peers every Sunday morning. These men could do nothing to help you save your bodies but they could do something about your souls. With their proximity to white slave masters and alluring personalities, Black ministers became plantation luminaries. Often being looked to in times of great distress, which I assume was most of the time. They were pushing heaven at a time when all we knew was hell, not much different from our realities today. This dynamic solidified the significance of the Black preacher. He was to be protected, he was to be exalted, he was chosen.
Our relationship with Black religious leadership hasn’t evolved much since then. Church leaders are still exalted within the Black community, viewed as faultless intermediaries to salvation. It should come as no surprise that our community is willing to sacrifice just about anything to ensure their impunity, even in the face of clear confirmation. It is for this reason that men like Cordell Jenkins, Anthony Haynes, and Kenneth Butler, three Toledo pastors charged with sexual assault and sex-trafficking of a minor, were met in the courtroom by supporters from their congregation, leading to some churchgoers being charged with obstruction of justice and making false statements to law enforcement. It is for this reason that members of Oxon Hill Assembly of Jesus Christ in Maryland refused to cooperate with investigators when Joshua William Wright, Donald Jackson and William Joshua Wright III, a father-son/son-in-law pastor trio, were accused of sexually abusing four girls who were members of their at-risk youth program. It is for this reason that Roshad Thomas, a youth pastor out of Tallahassee, FL., was arraigned for the alleged sexual assault of five boys between the ages of 12-16 in front of a court full of grieving church supporters, including another local preacher. It is for this reason that some of you are uncomfortable with my mentioning names in this article. We are subconsciously hardwired to protect these men and we have no idea why. And it is undoubtedly Black women and children who suffer in hell while we fight to secure our one way tickets to heaven.
But if the pulpit doesn’t work, the field might suffice. For the Black community, athletics have always been a medium through which we can achieve our whitest dreams. It’s not uncommon for young Black boys to define themselves by their athletic abilities, and why not? There’s an undeniable sense of clan pride when it comes to the celebration of Black athleticism. Wanna make it outta the hood? Wanna be a status symbol within the community you so desperately seek to escape? This is the way. Physical capabilities among Black men have always been directly linked to the value system by which we measure them and, again, we have slavery to thank for that minimization of our humanity. Unfortunately, we haven’t strayed much from that pathology. Throwing watch parties to witness our half-naked gladiators being auctioned off to the highest bidders. Eagerly awaiting the announcement of the top draft pick or better yet the “A1 Prime hand,” a historical term used during slavery to identify a “first-rate” slave who could do the most work in a given day. And because we use these same metrics to measure the value of Black men, individuals like Floyd Mayweather Jr are embraced when they should be ostracized. Men like Ray Rice are pitied while the women they assault are accused of using their glass jaws to “keep a brotha down.” Just like Black pastors, Black athletes are unjustifiably protected not for what they contribute but for what they represent. But no one is as protected as the Black musician.
Music is arguably one of the most powerful mediums. Powerful enough to incite joy, or grief, even rebellion As was the case during slavery and still remains the case. It’s no secret that slaves utilized music as a way to maintain various aspects of their forbidden culture as well as a coping mechanism. For many, music masked the agony, offered a glimpse of hope, and created a means of mental escape. Musicians were lauded for their ability to shift reality, even if only temporarily. Musicians were subsequently viewed as elite members of the community, feared for their ability to incite uprisings, respected for their defiance in a world that demanded our silent capitulation. Over time, praise houses became churches, bush meetings became concert halls, folk singers became crooners, and our emotional attachments grew stronger. For as much of our bondage was physical, it was also spiritual, psychological even. And despite our physical emancipation, the Black experience around the world continues to be one of oppression and subjugation. Making songs like “I believe I can fly” much more than just a ballad off the Space Jam soundtrack. Without the late Reverend James Cleveland, we wouldn’t have gospel classics like “Peace Be Still,” “God Is,” and “Where Is Your Faith In God.” Nor would we have icons like Aretha Franklin, who accredits her success to Cleveland’s mentorship. So how do we rectify that with a life riddled with molestation and pedophilia accusations? Do we trim our playlists and kneel in protest as the choir performs their rendition of “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired,” or do we dismiss victims like Cleveland’s adopted son as casualties of hope.
Some may say that the price our community pays for entertainment is too high, exceeding well beyond the costs of concert tickets and monthly streaming services. Leaving us to wonder at what point we refuse to feed the beastly hungers of our oppression, our innate need for white acknowledgment and the desire to separate ourselves from the dismembered communities that birth us. Someone has to feed the beast so we can “Step In The Name of Love,” right? Why not you and me? The reality is that the deafening, sobering reality we would face without these distractions would be too much for most of us. If not for music, if not for religion, if not for athletics, most of us would feel that there’s very little for Black people to celebrate, very little for Black people to be hopeful about, and we would likely be right. The fate of our global community is far more bleak than most of us care to admit and succumbing to such a bitter prognosis would require a level of consciousness that most of us don’t want to possess. Instead we start every defense statement with “Let Black people enjoy something,” even when that means defending our own monsters, even when that means sacrificing the soul of our own community. So again I ask, at what point does the well-being of our community outweigh our need to be entertained?